How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Not many string-benders are as talented as Mimi Fox, a San Francisco-based musician with a strong sense of swing and a clean, economical style.
A former student of Bruce Forman's, Fox shares more qualities with her bop-minded mentor than with the majority of male jazz guitarists in her age group who have adopted a more electronically processed, rock-influenced sound.
Kicks is Fox's second release, and it features a strong supporting cast, including Russell Ferrante (keys) and Will Kennedy (drums) from the Yellowjackets, Joey DeFrancesco (organ), John Wiiitala (bass), Mark VanWageningen (bass), and Marqhinho Brasil (percussion). Charlie Hunter (guitar) and Angela Bofill (vocals) also appear on one track apiece.
This is a strongly melodic collection, and one that swings out stylishly. The four collaborations between Fox and DeFrancesco are great. Fox's playing on those cuts brings to mind Grant Green, another guitarist who had tremendous chemistry with organists. DeFrancesco appears on the title track, Paul Simon's "Love Me Like A Rock," a Fox arrangement of "Poor Wayfarin' Stranger," and Mimi's original "Mr. White's Blues." All are bluesy jaunts that will set your toes to tappin'.
"Cherokee" swings out elegantly and "Born To Be Blue" features the poised singing of Angela Bofill. Fox goes acoustic on "In a Sentimental Mood," then she dazzles on electric guitar with a solo version of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square." She and Charlie Hunter deliver a funky duo version of "Willow Weep for Me." "Vita's Lullaby" is a slow original melody with some beautifully restrained playing by Fox and Ferrante. The Yellowjacket keyboardist sticks to acoustic piano on the three tracks that feature him.
Mimi Fox is a major talent, and Kicks is the rare mainstream jazz CD that's also richly melodic. This one's strongly recommended.